Do You Have Trouble Playing for People?

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Welcome to, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about how to become comfortable playing the piano for people. It’s imperative that you practice performing, but how can you do such a thing? You probably know if you’ve ever tried to play for someone, that things can go haywire. Why does that happen? You practice a piece, you can play it over and over again perfectly, but when you try to play it for someone, a friend or maybe for your teacher, everything goes wrong! What can you do to keep this from happening?

Preparation is key.

You can’t expect to play something in front of people that you can’t even play consistently on your own. So prepare like crazy! Practicing slowly is a great way to reinforce your memory and secure your performance. You are analyzing everything that’s happening when you play slowly, which is a little bit akin to what happens when you’re performing. Suddenly you’re hyper focused and you notice every little thing that maybe you didn’t really notice before. Have you ever felt that? When you play slowly, it’s more deliberate. That is a terrific way to solidify your playing so you feel more in control when you’re performing.

You can practice performing by recording yourself.

Set up your phone, computer, or any other recording device, audio or video, and record yourself playing. Get yourself psyched up like it’s a performance. The most important thing is that once you start, for better or worse, go through to the end. Make it feel like a real performance! You can always do it again later if you’re not happy with the way it came out. But don’t stop halfway through and start again, because that is not an option when you’re playing for people. Nobody wants to hear you start over. It’s kind of like someone telling a story and in the middle they stumble over a few words and start over from the beginning. You’re going to be really bored with them. So it’s really important to learn how to keep going. It’s one of the most important aspects of performing.

Play for friends and family.

Once you’ve gotten comfortable playing for a machine that records you, it’s time to play for people! Hopefully you have a good friend who likes music enough that they’ll sit and listen to you play something. And once again, even though they’re good friends, and they’ll forgive you if you stop and start again, don’t do that! Take advantage of the fact that you have this performance opportunity and play through for them. Plus they’ll enjoy it more if you don’t stop. Even if you’re not happy with the performance, they will enjoy it more if there’s continuity. Be in the service of your listener – the performance isn’t about you. It’s about your audience when you’re performing. When you practice, you can stop any time and make those repairs that are necessary. When you’re playing for people, it’s all about them. Make the experience enriching for them, which means don’t start over. They don’t want to hear that.

Challenge yourself by playing for more people.

Perhaps when you have company over say, “Would anybody like to hear some music?” Be bold! Give yourself an opportunity to play for more than just one person. In other words, you want to build up. So at first, you start just with the lowest pressure possible, just playing by yourself. Then you record yourself. Then play for a single person who doesn’t make you feel nervous. Then play for larger numbers of people. Then finally, if you’re ever in a place with a piano, particularly if it’s a better piano than what you regularly play on, that is a great opportunity to play through your music and learn how to adjust to another instrument. This is a tremendous challenge. You may discover things about the piece that you never even thought of before, just from hearing it on a different piano. Plus, with all the eyes on you, you’re hyper focused, and that attention you’re giving can really aid in discovering new things in the music. Of course, the downside of that is you might become distracted and things could fall apart. But that can help you to strengthen your performance, because you’ll know what to practice.

Building up from smaller to larger audiences is a great way to strengthen your performance.

Do it as many times as it takes to become comfortable. You’ll find that when you have a new piece, you may need to repeat this process. If you’ve never performed a piece, you want to break it in. My father, who performed at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center and in Europe, would always have tryout recitals before he played in public. He would invite people over and play through his program. He tried to do this a number of times before the actual event. He would often record himself, and that way he’d know what state the performance was in. It would help him to focus his practice where it was needed.

This is a great idea for anybody on any level!

So remember, practice performing and you will be richly rewarded. It will take your piano playing to the next level. If you never perform your music for anyone, you’ll never have the opportunity to really understand what it’s all about. So go for it – you have nothing to lose! People will appreciate the opportunity to hear you play. You can’t imagine how much people really do appreciate live music. So give it a try! Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at, Your Online Piano Resource.

4 thoughts on “Do You Have Trouble Playing for People?”


  1. I have a different attitude re performing. It was only as an adult when I realized that the reason I perform is because I enjoy it. I enjoy the surge of emotions, the being engulfed by adrenalin. I never listen as well to my playing as when I perform. Thus, performing is for me, not for my audience. Im glad they are there but I play for the thrill I receive, not for them.

    1. That’s great. However, the surge of adrenaline demonstrates how the audience provides you with that additional energy that makes it rewarding for you.

  2. Hi Robert,
    I like the way that video snippets are scattered your video as examples.
    They really help to get the message across.
    And also a silly thought.
    When you have visitors over, you could always lock the room door
    so they HAVE to listen to your piece right through.
    If they are not hammering to get out it means your performance
    may not have been too bad.

    1. Yes, we started doing Shorts which are snippets of the videos that can’t be more than one minute long which are vertically oriented so they work well on your phone. As for locking people in the room, did you know the vast majority of people don’t get past the first half of videos they watch on YouTube! That’s why the Short videos work well. Many people have short attention spans!

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